Saturday, April 25, 2009

I voted and what I found inexplicable

My Voting card in Sinhala and Tamil only

I am registered currently for voting purposes in my farm in Godagama, which is in the Homagama electorate of the Colombo District. I had a list of 41 parties including independent groups with potentially 46 persons vying for preferences for each party.The ballot paper was about 2 ft long to accommodate all these parties, firstly the party sign on the left hand side box, and then the name of the party, in Sinhala, then in Tamil followed by English. In a small section in the bottom, a box of approximately 8cm X 6cm were the 46 boxes with numbers to cross for three candidates for the party one voted for in the top.

The irony was that most people know what party symbol they would vote for, but which of three numbers to cross is much more difficult. Peoples attention span for remembering numbers is not good, and though one may remember one number of a particular candidate, recalling three is a wholly different matter.

I was particularly shocked when my father who had voted in the Colombo West electorate and came up to the farm in the morning told me, that as far as the numbers were concerned he had no clue who he voted for, just crossing three consecutive numbers in boxes, as he did not know names or numbers of candidates.

If that is the comment of a supposedly experienced voter of numerous elections, then I can only conclude that this system is considerably flawed, as all the electioneering was to get people to remember names and numbers, and not party platforms, and even that was poorly executed.

The scale of the waste of money thus expended on an election, which for all intents and purposes is merely a referendum, is unpardonable in light of the current events. Effectively to me it is nothing more than a jobs list for the second tier of boys, who get a duty free vehicle, for all 104 provincial councilors elected. Not one word of utterance was made on how the Rs50B allocation for the Western Provincial Council will be spent. No surprise therefore that voter turnout was under 60%

I found one troubling point which I would like one of my readers to explain. My ballot paper was torn from the perforation and given to me, and my voter number was entered on the counterfoil.Now the counterfoil and the ballot paper have a unique number much like in a cheque book where the counterfoil and cheque have the same number. It is therefore possible, and if computerized, very easy to match who voted for which candidates and party, nullifying the whole point of a secret ballot.

I would like some clarification on this, as to why the lady handing me the ballot paper wrote my voting card number on the counterfoil in pencil!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This chap betters my delivery range!!

The man in the photo came the other day to my home from whom I bought a host of cleaning implements. I really admire his industriousness as well as the convenience to the customer. I wish him well, a true Sri Lankan worker.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dream into Reality – the “Wattle and Daub Hut”

A month before my graduation from the University of Bristol, (no 32 in the latest world league table of Universities) with an honors degree in Economics and Accounting, I celebrated my 21st birthday. The couple, who took me to dinner that day at a restaurant by the Downs wanted to know what my future aspirations were! Half jokingly I said I would like to live in a mud hut in Sri Lanka, free of all the troubles and stresses of western life.

Part of this prophecy is now coming true, and I hope to get some photos to straddle this entry to show the construction phase of the hut. I am not kidding but it is the coolest place on the planet! The sticks and wood used to make the frame have been cut from the area about the property, with no harm to the environment as thinning the branches will help the trees grow better. The mud used to fill the crevices is adjoining the hut, from an anthill, the traditional source for good quality mud for this type of work. The roof is covered completely in Iluk, as this will last for about 5 years, and is strong and plentiful.

The construction was done by the local people, with the young looking in awe at its construction, as I don’t think this type of hut has been constructed in these places for a long time, and is also a tradition that is fast dying as almost all homes are now made of brick and cement, with roofs either of sheets or with tiles. It is interesting how the mud balls made much like for a pottery class are blasted into the crevice by hand to stick, and then the mud has to dry before the outer layers are put both for the inside and the outside.

The hut comprises a room 13ft by 10ft and a verandah, 13ft by 5ft constructed under a large tree to give it additional shade and coolness. The pictures show the simple design, and I hope to have two single beds in the room with two chairs in the verandah and a book-shelf. A basic traditional door and two windows facing the verandah are included together with two 3ft by 2ft glass panels embedded into the mud at the sides of the room to allow for light.

I had a cousin and family visit me this Avurudhu season and gave their thumbs up to the style, and I just have to make sure all the crevices are properly covered when the final layer is put to deter the sometimes poisonous creepy crawlies who like to make this area their home if given half the chance in these cool climes out of the hot weather outside.

Of course the question every one is dying to ask is how much this would cost? I have been alluding to the high level of wages the people in the villages in Sri Lanka expect as compared with Colombo, as they don’t expect the work to be permanent. A daily wage of Rs700 for a male and Rs500 for a female, along with the cutting and transporting of the Iluk from an Iluk field means the whole thing till completion including the wood doors and windows will set me back about Rs75,000. In essence I am paying for people’s time, be it to cut the wood, to make the mud balls, to make the frames, and get the cow dung for the flooring and the grass for the roof. There is no purchase necessary from a Hardware store except for the door and window hinges and locks. In an economic sense sense this expense is more beneficial for the locality than a cement, brick, tile unit which in today’s context will be about Rs200,000 with the cost mainly for bought materials.

Avurudhu Wishes to you all

I wish all my readers a blessed and prosperous New Year and like so many who have wished me, hope that our country will see the light and pursue an honest path to peace and prosperity for ALL and not a select few.

I have been by myself in Minneriya from the 9th as my staff have all gone to their home villages for the Avurudhu season and have not yet returned, as there has not been a bus service, contrary to all the pronouncements in the media that special buses and trains have been laid out. Another reason to be totally skeptical in Sri Lanka on what the official news media, be it newspapers or tv says and we in Sri Lanka must rely on blogs for the real news. Sadly, the blogging community within Sri Lanka appear to me, and forgive me if I am making the wrong generalization, to be composed of intellectual poets if they are female seeking an audience for their output, or idle chatter about some inanimate object if they are male. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and I am merely trying to encourage a few real world contributions, to make up for the void created by the media disinformation both by the private and state media.

In today’s village traditions, sadly the raban and avurudhu games are reserved for the special fairs organized in my locality and not the spontaneous home-grown events of yesteryear. In my neighborhood, every auspicious time, be it during the day or at the dead of night seems to be heralded by a cacophony of lighting fire-crackers, disturbing the peace of the frightened animals as well as the domestic pets. Somehow the sound of the fire-crackers were louder this year than in the past. I suppose it is the technology stupid! Don’t forget fire-crackers and fireworks are different things, it is the sound that we go for in this case.

Sadly to me the worst aspects of this season, watching the goings on around me, was an excessive consumption of alcohol, especially moonshine as all the liquor selling outlets have been closed since the 8th. This is followed by the card games and I don’t know the English words but a few other games played on the bare patches all for chance and I personally know people who have lost a lot of money, which I would have thought for them would be a fortune.

Accordingly, young and old have been involved in this but one tradition that still remains is that the girls and their mothers have been busy laboring away in their kitchens turning out some of the most delectable eats, traditional to this season, with mung kavun, konde kavum and kokis being my personal favorites. Obviously it is unheard of here to serve a guest anything other than what was made in your hearth, and I have certainly had my fill. The other tradition is to go to one’s neighbors and relatives, bearing eats along with the obligatory Kolikuttu, hopefully from your own home garden.

Being here alone, I was spared doing the cooking, but my neighbors took care of my food and many visited me with so many eats, that I had to give away most of them, not wanting to see them go to waste once the three dogs and cat had their fill. I have also had to take care of the two cows and the bull, and have my paddy fields all ploughed up.

The daily view while I bathe in the water, the waters eye view